My name is Nickie, I am the founder of Vision Guatemala. I am very happy to share the organization’s history from my perspective.


When I first came to Guatemala, I had read about microfinance being an alternative instrument of poverty alleviation. To know more about the topic and its practice I opted for a short training at Grameen, a program from Bangladesh that was operating through the local bank Banrural in Guatemala. I was able to learn the basics about microcredits and savings. Based in Quetzaltenango, I was travelling to remote beneficiary villages of Grameen where I got to know a handful of women interested in starting a business with a small loan.

I sat down on my desk and wrote the first project proposal about the vision of women empowerment through microfinance and networking. It was then when the name Vision Guatemala was born.

The idea was immediatly supported by three Swiss foundations which donated a small seed capital. By the end of the year, Vision Guatemala completed the first disembursment of microloans to 12 women. The loans were successfully invested in their businesses and paid back after 4 months.


After a few months I got tired of the cold in Quetzaltenango. I had started working with a local field officer of the Grameen network. I left him in charge of the payment meetings to look for a warmer place to live. Living for a few months at the pacific coast and travelling back to Quetzaltenango once a month to meet the borrowers I realized that the project had already become self-dynamic. The borrowers invited new members to the group without respecting the established procedure. I realized that I had to be working in an area where I was able to live within the members’ cultural and social context in order to get to know them well and react to their needs.

I moved to San Pedro La Laguna at the lake Atitlan, a mainly indigenous area. In order to sustain myself and the new Vision’s office, I opened “Coco’s Bar” where I worked during the night serving drinks, attending new groups of women during the day. I implemented a program of training workshops in order to prepare the women for their investment of the first loan. Many women started to show their interest in the Vision Guatemala enterpreuners’ program.


2011 was a very important year in the history of Vision as it was the birth year of the children and youth empowerment program. We had already extended our services to the next village San Juan La Laguna. Women regularly came to “Coco’s Bar” and were forming working groups of 5 to 7 members on their own. I saw the need of a local translator as the target group of the microloan program were only Tz’utujil women from the lowest income group with very few knowlede of Spanish. Also, the training program became more comprehensive. One of the members, Rosalia, offered being a volunteer to support the mirco-enterpreuners’ program. She quickly learned how to adapt the training content to the local context and became a crucial ressource for Vision Guatemala.

The first years of experience showed that despite the big efforts our women performed within the program and their business, it was difficult for them to send their children to school due to the lack of support from the government. We saw the need of getting involved with the next generation, the children of our successful entrepreuner women. It all started with an arts project, giving the kids an opportunity to become creative and productive at the same time. We realized the childrens’ book project “El Cacheton” which was promoted ans sold in Switzerland. The earnings of the bookselling opened the possibility to create Vision’s scholarship program, providing financial support for the education of one child of each of the 50 successful women.

The message about the combined credits and educational program was spread fast. Over 200 women and their children applied for a membership during 2012. Rosalia became an independet facilitator and attended her own groups. Many volunteers, locals from San Pedro but also foreigners, started working with the women and in the arts program for children. By the end of 2012 the bar was closed and I was dedicated to professionalize Vision Guatemala full time. We rented a small office and training room in San Pedro, inviting more women and their children to join. The swiss association Vision Guatemala was founded and long term partnerships to several Swiss foundations were established.


Attending groups of San Pedro, San Juan and San Marcos, we saw the need to extend our working space. We moved to San Juan, were by now most of our members lived. The women of other villages kept joining our program in spite of the change of location because they had recoconized its usefulness for their lives and their children.

Despite the unlimited access to formal education thanks to our financial support, most of the young beneficiaries had trouble following school. We were confronted with a more complex situation and tried to find answers based on experience. An extensive tutoring program was established for all school levels and a team of local teachers was trained to become “Vision-educators”.

To motivate the kids, besides regular classes in the main school subjects we offered different arts and crafts workshops and excursions.


Becoming aware of the difficulties of our students and the conflicts arising with our families due to disagreements about the nature of “benefits”, we realized that there has to be profound change of mentality within the local core team and from there throughout the whole Vision community. Vision Guatemala doesn’t want people to depend on our services, we want them to become independent instead. The scholarship program helped motivate the mothers to active participation, but their underlying reason was often the hope to “recieve”. Education is not a free gift, it’s an investment for everyone involved in the process.

By mid 2015, we had changed the complex tutoring system within the children and youth program to an alternative learning platform with a holistic, inclusive approach. Instead of offering classes in different subjects we focused on learning per se. Art of all kinds, interactive, participative learning methods and outdoor activities made the new package very attractive to our kids. By the end of the year, we had over 70 regular participants that loved being part of the regluar workshops and wouldn’t miss one out. Their insterest in learning started to rise significantly, they became more communicative and initiative.

The years of growth fostered the need of systematization. While the womens’s program has always been well documented and structured, institutional processes, the implementation of systematic evaluation of results, effects and impacts as part of the organizational learning process became more and more priority on our agenda.


The Vision community has changed significantly. Participation is based on intrinsic motivation, but is strictly evaluated. Who doesn’t participate actively drops out. The yearly objective was set by the whole core team: Breaking the paradigm of “giving and taking”. We are constructing a different reality as a collective effort. All Vision members are equal partners, we exchange experience and knowledge and grow togther.

With that, the “Academic Exchange” was born. Also, we set up a third program: Integral health and wellbeing. It unites our two target groups, women and children. Vision members of all ages invest time and energy in their new integral health awareness.

Some of our young participants have already started their own community initiatives and become more active citizens.

The first Vision-owned and administrated social business, Qa’ B’atz, a small shop providing material to local weavers, has become a succsessful business model and learning platform for our members and collaborators.

Organizational learning has become a particular strength of Vision Guatemala. The internal training has been so far professionalized, that Vision collaborators are now recognized as highly competent on the local labor market.

At the present time we are dedicated to extend our capacities and skills, systematize impact measurement and create new networks.